What are the chances you actually cooked the wheat berries I blogged about last week? Have I successfully converted anyone? Bueller?
On the off-chance that even one of you is muttering, "I have 18 cups of cooked wheat berries in my fridge and the only recipe she gave me was for porridge..." I'm going to offer just one more. Oh, I have oodles, but you'll have to beg me after today.
Wheat berries pair beautifully with lentils, and the best use of lentils, so far as I'm concerned, is in soup. Well, and dal, but we'll cover that another day.
Colin and I have loved lentils ever since our Peace Corps days In Eritrea. Lentils, along with chick peas, are a staple legume in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine, as anyone who has ever scooped up addis or shero (ground chick pea paste) with a spongy round of injera can attest. Many of our students, all of them teenagers, were former soldiers who lived together in a dorm-style cluster of buildings at the far end of Decamhare, the town where we spent two years. They'd invite us to dine with them on Monday nights, and every time we'd go, their cafeteria would serve addis -- spiced, softened lentils, prepared in a stew called timtimo. We learned to love lentils. How could we not? This dish was so symbolically intertwined with our students' devotion to one another, their storied pasts, and their bright, hope-filled futures.
(Sadly, the geopolitical situation in Eritrea has since changed drastically, and not for the better.)
Fast forward many years, to the present, when many of us are trying to slash our grocery bills and rein in spending. Lentils and wheat berries are as economical as food gets. And the answer to both your cash-starved wallet and your desire for something healthful and fulfilling is right here in this soup bowl. Add some chard and carrots, a little broth, a squeeze of lemon, and a sprinkling of cumin, and you've got yourself a protein-packed, fiber-filled meal to chase away the autumn chill.
This soup is definitely not Eritrean, but with any luck it'll give you the same warm feeling Colin and I experienced on those Monday nights, walking to meet our students, many years ago.
Recipe for Cumin-Scented Wheat Berry and Lentil Soup
For this hearty, soul-warming soup, you'll save an enormous amount of time if you've cooked your wheat berries ahead of time and stored them in the fridge or freezer. If frozen, there's no need to thaw them before adding them to the soup. Just toss them right in. Note: I originally developed this recipe for the March/April 2007 issue of EatingWell magazine.
1-1/2 cups brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups cold water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large carrots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, diced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 cups cooked wheat berries
1 bunch rainbow or Swiss chard, or kale, large ribs discarded, leaves roughly chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Combine the lentils, broth, and water in a soup pot. bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds more. Remove from heat.
When the lentils are tender, stir cooked wheat berries and chard (or kale) into the pot. Cover and simmer until the greens have wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the carrot mixture and lemon juice. Adjust seasonings with additional salt, pepper, or lemon, to taste.